Last week we looked at 720p versus 1080p resolutions with regards to high definition television (HDTV). This week we’re going to look at the two more popular display technologies available to the consumer today. Yep, today’s discussion is going to be about LCD and Plasma technologies.
We will start with the plasma technology since it is the older technology. When you start looking at televisions people will generally push you towards the LCD displays because over the last couple of years they have become more popular due to their size and resolution (it was hard to find a 1080p plasma that was larger than 36”-40”). This is no longer the case. These days you can find plasma displays that rival LCD size and resolution and generally at cheaper prices.
Some things to consider when you look at the plasma televisions is that they will have smoother refresh rates, better viewing angles, and better overall pictures. The downside is that they are generally heavier (which can make them harder to mount), can get something called image retention, and can have really reflective screens.
The reflective screen is not a big deal if you can control the lighting situation for the room. With newer and higher end plasmas, the percentage on image retention is pretty much nil. And the extra weight isnt really that big of deal as long as you take it into account when setting up the mount.
The LCD technology with regards to televisions has become incredibly popular over the last couple of years, reaching a point where they have been outselling plasmas for at least a year. With LCD, you can get larger screen sizes than you can with plasma but at the moment, both stop at right around the 65 inch mark.
Some advantages to the LCD technology is the brighter screen works well in bright rooms, the screens are generally less reflective, and there are more LCD models that will do the 1080p/24 true cinema frame rate when compared to plasmas. The downsides however can be pretty steep, the biggest two are viewing angle and motion blur. Viewing angle is when you try to view the panel from any angle other than straight on. moving to the side will cause the image to lose its punch. Also, motion blur is/can be an issue depending on what you are watching.
When shopping for an LCD, you’ll notice some of them say “120hz” and what this is, is a way to combat motion blur. You can look at this wikipedia article on “Flickr Free” to get a better understanding of what is going on with this and how it works. Essentially it uses trickery to try and eliminate motion blur. Common consensus though is that Plasma handles motion better than LCD.
So Which One to Get
Here are some things to consider when picking which of these technologies to go with for your HDTV purchase. If you can control the lighting in your viewing room, Plasma is a really good way to go. The less ambient light in the room the better. If you’re in a bright room (lots of windows, lights always on regardless of time of day, etc) then you’ll want to focus on the LCD technology.
If you have to go LCD, I would recommend that you look at something with the 120hz technology to help fight the potential motion blur that could occur. But, keep in mind that if the source has blur in it, it won’t matter what TV you have because the blur is in the source and the television will display what it receives from that source.
Another thing to consider is seating. If there will be people sitting to the side and viewing from an angle. Not all LCDs handle this very well, especially once they are made to not me so bright. Plasmas handle this better as well but if you sit at a bad angle both don’t really do well.
Finally, you’ll want to consider the length of time between television purchases. Most plasmas today have a lifespan of around 85,000-100,000 hours. What does that mean? Well lets say that a TV is rated for 50,000 hours, then it will take 17 years for the TV to reach what’s known as “half-life” when the picture will be only half as bright as when you first bought the TV (my understanding of this or my math could be off here, if this is the case please feel free to correct me in the comments and I’ll make edits). So that’s just something to keep in mind.
Now that we have discussed the pros and cons of the LCD and plasma technologies, next week we will touch on the alternate display technologies like DLP, OLED, and projection. We’re just going to hit the high points of each and weigh the pros and cons.